Burbank school officials, faced with protests from parents of elementary schoolchildren, have canceled plans to employ continuation high school students as camp counselors on an overnight field trip for a group of sixth-graders.
Parents of students at Bret Harte Elementary School told district officials they were never informed that students signing up for a three-night field trip to science camp would be chaperoned by students from Burbank’s Monterey High School, a continuation school.
Students who attend continuation high schools generally have had trouble with attendance, discipline or school work, or have dropped out at conventional high schools.
“I talked with one parent who thought these would be students with behavioral problems or expelled students or students with emotional problems,” said Burbank Supt. Arthur N. Pierce. “But those are not the reasons that our students go to continuation high school.”
Pierce said he canceled plans for 10 Monterey students to accompany the 72 Harte elementary students on the district’s first Outdoor Science School, scheduled for next Monday, because parents complained that they were not notified in advance that Monterey high school students would work as camp counselors.
“My feeling was that we needed to halt and regroup for this one trip,” Pierce said.
Pierce left open the possibility that the Monterey students would work as counselors for two more such field trips, involving two other Burbank elementary schools, which are planned for January and February.
The sixth-graders attending the camp will learn about outdoor sciences, including botany and astronomy, district officials said.
Pierce said he wants the Monterey students to attend those field trips, which are to be held at a La Canada Flintridge campground owned by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
The issue is scheduled to be heard by the school board Nov. 16, Pierce said.
“The students at Monterey are just as capable as students at our other two high schools,” Pierce said.
Monterey High School Principal Pamela Schlatter said one parent called to complain about her students working as camp counselors.
“He said he didn’t want any pregnant girls or any students who had been arrested on the trip,” Schlatter said. “That presumes that all of our students are either pregnant or in trouble with the law, and that is not true.
“My students were just devastated,” Schlatter said. “But I’m still hopeful.”